Many say that it's better to have no website, than an under construction or unattractive website. Not so; there are many reasons why you need to have your website online at the earliest opportunity.
The most important reason is that you need to "control your domain". Anyone can write anything about your company online, such as negative comments on blogs. Or your competitors can use your name to gain business. Accommodation, restaurant and tourism businesses are plagued by negative comments on forums. If someone searches for your business name, you need to ensure that you are top of the search results. You might have ninety-nine good forum comments, and only one negative. But if that negative comment is on the right forum, then that comment might be the first someone sees when they do a Google search. It is very easy to get even a bad website highly ranked for your own business name. You might not be found for your products or keywords, but the copyright message or domain name generally ensure that your company name will be found top of the list every time.
If a competitor lists your business name on their website and writes a little search-engine-optimised content about you, they can get higher than you on search engines. If your website doesn't exist at all, then it requires no effort whatsoever for them to be listed at the top.
The common reason people give for wanting their website offline is because it is either unattractive, out of date or unfinished. It only takes a few days to a few weeks to fix these issues. Or more easily - in just a few minutes most web designers can knock up a simple page with just a logo, company name and your contact details. This kind of place holder page will ensure that you retain your search engine position, and control your name space on the internet. With a logo or photo on a clean white back ground, and tidily typed contact details, you will be still providing a professional look and feel.
So what else is the harm in taking a website offline temporarily? Search engines are constantly monitoring the Internet for changes. If your website goes offline, you may lose years of history that had increased your page rank. If your website goes back online after just a few weeks, you may have to wait six months before they even include your website in the results anywhere, let alone at the top. We're often asked if it is okay to take a website offline after Christmas, as the owner wants to take a break from shipping orders. The answer is no and we cover the reasons why, along with suggestions on what you can do instead in our article How to Prepare Your Website for Christmas.
Or alternatively, many web hosting companies will replace your website with adverts for their own website services. In this case, you might find that your web address has become associated with your web host's content, and not yours. For several months, search results will be returning content unrelated to your business, and this will confuse your customers. Search engines do not always update quickly, and some issues can remain for up to six months.
For these same reasons, it's also important to get your website online well before your launch. To ensure that you will be found on the launch date, you should make your website live at the earliest opportunity with your company name and a few well chosen keywords, even if you don't include contact details or products for purchase.
So, as you can see, it is imperative that your website remains online at all times, and goes online as early as possible. It's always better to have a simple webpage than none.
Posted: Monday 7 July 2008